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Synopsis of Made for Joy – An Advent Message
Good and joyful, to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair and pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from: Philippians 4 : 4 – 9 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
I want to give you some good news. It is good news anytime of the year, but especially so at Christmastime. Here is that good news: You were made for joy. You weren’t made to fret and worry and think dark thoughts. You were made for peace and love and light and joy.
The story is told of a woman who dreamed of traveling to England and riding a train through the English countryside. One day her dream came true. She flew from the U.S. to London and after a good night’s sleep she boarded a train. However, after a short time on her excursion she began fretting about the windows and the temperature. She complained about her seat assignment, rearranged her luggage, and so on. To her shock, she suddenly reached her journey’s end. With deep regret she said to the person meeting her, “If I’d known I was going to arrive so soon, I wouldn’t have wasted my time fretting so much.”
That is the story of so many of us. We get to the end of our lives and realize that we spent time fretting over so many things, complaining about this and that yet life was passing by so quickly. So let me say it again: You were made for joy. You weren’t made to fret and worry and think dark thoughts. You were made for peace and love and light and joy.
St. Paul understood that. He writes in our slice for today. The amazing thing is that St. Paul wrote these words from prison while he was, in effect, on death row. We are told that he was literally chained to a Roman soldier and guarded day and night. And yet he could say, “Do not be anxious about anything . . .” It takes a special kind of faith to proclaim joy in such dire circumstances the kind of faith that comes from living in the center of God’s will and love. And, you and I, my friend were made for such joy.
What is it that robs you of our joy? Is it worry about the future? That’s the root of much of our anxiety, isn’t it? We’re worried about our future.
We’re told that advice columnist Ann Landers used to get about 10,000 letters a month about people’s problems. She was asked, what is the number one problem that people have? She said the number one concern of most people is anxiety. She said people are afraid of losing their health, afraid of losing their wealth, afraid of losing loved ones. She said people are afraid of life itself. She related a story of: A man lying in bed one night found himself worrying. He thought to himself, “It is very strange. Here I am lying in bed, and I don’t have a worry in the world. Then the thought came, ‘That worries me.’” It is the little things that tie us up in knots, usually little things that are easily fixable with time.
The writer Isak Dinesen said, “God made the world round so that we would never be able to see too far down the road.” And that’s true. We can’t see down that road. That itself is the cause of anxiety for many of us. And sadly there is something within us that causes us to look down that road with fear rather than with faith.
Is that the source of your anxiety that your life will be a disappointment? Some people lose their joy because they are continually comparing their lives with others, and so they focus not on their blessings, but on their shortcomings.
Is that what is robbing you of your joy comparing yourself with others? There may be someone who is already worrying because a neighbor’s child will be getting more toys under the tree this Christmas than your child. Or that Uncle Bob will be able to give the family more treats than you can afford.
Comedian George Gobel found one way to deal with this particular anxiety. Some of the older listeners will remember “Lonesome George” and his signature phrase, “Well, I’ll be a dirty bird.”
The book titled, “The Bud Abbot and Lou Costello Story” George Gobel lived across the street from Lou Costello of “Abbott and Costello” fame. Costello really got into Christmas each year, setting up an elaborate Christmas display with angels, music, reindeer, and many hundreds of Christmas lights. Gobel did nothing for Christmas except to put up a sign. The sign said, “See our display across the street.” That’s one way to deal with comparative anxiety at Christmastime …..with humor.
Do you remember what the first thing that the angel said to the shepherds watching over their flocks that first Christmas night? “Fear not.” That’s an important word as we approach this year’s celebration of this holy event.
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